Generally associated with soldier modernisation and future technology programmes, efforts to reduce the burden on Dismounted Close Combat (DCC) personnel continue to proliferate globally, with a number of companies and armed forces engaged in such efforts.
That said, while reducing the burden on DCC personnel is important, industry sources have warned Armada that such reductions in size, weight and power of equipment must not come at the expense of capacity and capability. Present at the Future Soldier Technology conference, which took place in London between 13th and 14th March, Armada witnessed ongoing national and international collaborative efforts to enhance the effects of the DCC community with participants from within and without NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) including the armed forces of the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, plus the British Army and US Army.
One example of such a concept is currently being explored by Cohort subsidiary SEA which on 13th March unveiled its Delivering Dismounted Effect (DDE) programme to the Future Soldier Technology conference. Speaking to Armada ahead of the event, Giles Verwey, senior principal consultant and Laurence Bedford, senior principal consultant for ground close combat at SEA, described how the DDE concept was being conducted in response to ongoing requirements from the UK's Ministry of Defence (MOD) and Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) to not only enhance lethality but also to increase mobility and reduce the burden of loads carried.
Describing how SEA was contracted by DSTL for the effort, Mr. Verwey explained: "In particular, the (MOD) will look at how to develop the research from technology into capability, as part of a team from industry and academia delivering integrated dismounted soldier systems research to the UK MOD. The new systems considered included technologies for the weapon, helmet, torso and night vision systems using each element to develop an integrated soldier system. In particular, the DDE research investigated the technical feasibility, benefits and costs associated with integrating power and data onto the weapon and helmet." Mr. Bedford added that: "All the systems were designed to meet the challenges required by an adaptable and flexible force dealing with evolving threats (which) it is envisaged will be part of the equipment and design of the future soldier," while highlighting the MOD's main driver to increase flexibility and mobility across the battlefield without comprising protection.
Mr. Bedford continued to describe how one of the central drivers in the DDE concept remained focused on human factors and ergonomics associated with the integration of growing levels of technology carried by the soldier including greater emphasis on females who are now cleared to conduct similar combat roles to their male counterparts. For example, in December 2015, the US Department of Defence opened all combat roles in the US armed forces to women.
SEA's DDE solution was shown to the British Army's Infantry Trials and Development Unit (ITDU) at the force's Land Warfare Centre in Warminster, western England, on 3rd November 2016 at which SEA's managing director, Stephen Hill explained how there remained "tremendous potential" across the DCC community to further exploit opportunities to reduce the burden and increase the: "capability of weapons and equipment while at the same time improving data sharing and situational awareness between combat forces and their partners ... The DDE project will provide a step change in the way our forces approach future combat situations," Mr. Hill added.
Similar concepts were also considered by the MOD at the Army Warfighting Experiment (AWE) over the course of a six-week exercise which concluded on 30th March. According to a statement from the British Army, the AWE-17 programme provided an opportunity for industry and innovators to "showcase their products to the British Army (in order to promote) systems, technology and equipment ... The aim of the Army Warfighting Experiment is to create the conditions where innovation can thrive within the widest possible supplier base. By looking at not only new technologies but novel ways of exploiting existing COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) technologies into a military context, we hope to be able to improve the delivery of affordable yet effective battle winning equipment to the front line," an official statement from the MOD explained.
The most capable and modern technology solutions remain irrelevant to soldiers across the Contemporary Operating Environment (COE) if they cannot be efficiently integrated into a holistic DCC ensemble. As one British Army source explained to Armada: "If equipment is uncomfortable; difficult to use; or doesn't look the part; a soldier is likely to discard it." Hence the reason why many of the leading armed forces around the world are heavily focusing on such areas as they seek to reduce the size, weight and power specifications of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), weapons, ammunition, batteries and other equipment to improve flexibility and mobility on the battlefield. Currently, much effort is expended on reducing the physical weight of the individual subsystems that an infantry soldier must carry. For example, 3M Peltor and Invisio both produce headsets for soldiers which have a lightweight construction, along with weapons accessories from firms such as Aimpoint which have a similarly lightweight design.
One of the leading authorities in this area is the Nederlandse Organisatie voor Toegepast Natuurwetenschappelijk Onderzoek (TNO: Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research) which features a dedicated Human Factors Institute focused on military users and reducing the burden experienced by DCC soldiers across the contemporary operating environment. Speaking to Armada, TNO senior business developer for human effectiveness, Eduard Winckers discussed how the organisation continued to consider multiple efforts to lighten the...